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The Top Truckers
Corey Heim led 30 of 67 laps en route to the win from the pole at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 8. He held off Zane Smith – who finished second for the second straight year at Mid-Ohio – Christian Eckes, Stewart Friesen and Ben Rhodes to win his second race of the season and add to his regular season points lead.
Rhodes was the stage one winner, while ThorSport Racing teammate Ty Majeski won stage two.
Top Storylines of the Race
Fresh off the Chicago street course deluge, the rain followed the trucks to Mid-Ohio, as lightning and heavy rain in the area delayed the race by almost an hour. Everyone started on wet weather tires, and the race’s original start and subsequent restarts were single file, although once the sun came out and dried the track, double file restarts were reinstated.
Even with the wet weather tires, grip seemed impossible to find. Several drivers spun under caution, including the pace laps before the start. Some drivers spun twice in one lap, while several drivers found themselves stuck in gravel traps throughout the entire race. Spencer Boyd and Carson Hocevar were noticeably dirty, almost like they had been competing on the dirt at Bristol Motor Speedway.
One driver who had a tough battle with the gravel traps the entire race was Tanner Gray. Gray went off several times and sometimes ended up stuck, while other times, he was the most exciting truck on track, as he kept in the throttle to avoid getting stuck, which happened on at least two different occasions.
A good day for Will Rodgers came to a screeching halt on lap 54 when he was battling with Austin Wayne Self for position. After contacting Self on the final corner, Self retaliated by turning right into the side of Rodgers’ No. 02, sending Rodgers into the tire barrier right before the start-finish line, with Self’s No. 22 becoming stuck in the gravel trap.
After the race, an irate Matt Crafton walked up to Rhodes and got in his face over an incident that happened between the two late in the race. This came in the midst of a ThorSport Racing near-meltdown in the team’s home state.
The Winning Move
Heim held the lead early on but went off-track, handing the lead to Rhodes. He wasn’t able to get back to the lead until lap 42, when he took the lead from Majeski for good. A lap later, Rhodes and Majeski – who had combined to lead 36 laps – made contact and spun out while battling for second. While they were both able to return to the top 10, Heim was able to hold off Smith to take the victory, as Rhodes and Majeski never got back in a position to contend for the win.
Heim extends his points lead to 26 points over Smith. With just two races left, it looks to be Heim’s regular season championship to lose.
Meanwhile, with four spots to decide, a maximum of two drivers can win their way in. At minimum, the other two will be decided on points. Currently, at the 10th-place cut line, Crafton is in the playoffs over Friesen by just one singular point. Rookie Nick Sanchez is only two above the cutline, and Matt DiBenedetto is five points above. Behind Friesen is Tanner Gray, who is a less-desirable 24 points behind Crafton.
Should two different winners win the next two races, it would be DiBenedetto at the cut line with just a three-point lead over Sanchez. Majeski is still winless and is, therefore, not locked in on points. However, he has a 90-point lead over DiBenedetto and a 95-point lead over Friesen, so he should be locked in after the next race.
Sanchez’s ninth-place finish earns him rookie of the race. In the ARCA Menards Series races he competed in at Mid-Ohio in 2021 and 2022, Sanchez finished fifth and 11th, respectively.
Shoutout to Landen Lewis, who finished 24th in his Truck Series debut. Lewis competes full-time in ARCA West this season, and he won at Portland International Raceway in June. His mentor, Ron Hornaday Jr., says Lewis ‘puts Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick to shame’ because of his young age starting out in NASCAR. Hornaday also had a hand in discovering Johnson and Harvick when they first started racing in NASCAR.
No. 1 – William Sawalich (27th)
No. 02 – Will Rodgers (34th)
No. 2 – Nick Sanchez (ninth)
No. 04 – Landen Lewis (24th)
No. 7 – Marco Andretti (19th)
No. 17 – Taylor Gray (15th)
No. 24 – Rajah Caruth (29th)
No. 30 – Ryan Vargas (23rd)
No. 32 – Bret Holmes (32nd)
No. 35 – Jake Garcia (16th)
No. 41 – Conor Daly (18th)
No. 43 – Daniel Dye (14th)
No. 46 – Dale Quarterley (35th)
No. 66 – Conner Jones (28th)
One Thought About This Race
Don’t look now, but DiBenedetto has found his stride.
While DiBenedetto’s Rackley-WAR team doesn’t have the resources that the ThorSports or Kyle Busch Motorsports of the series do, the team has finally seemed to find its rhythm, as DiBenedetto in the midst of a five-race streak of top 10s following his eighth-place finish at Mid-Ohio.
“We’re just a step behind the bigger teams,” DiBenedetto told Frontstretch after qualifying.
Wheelhop seemed to be an issue in qualifying, but he said he wasn’t sure if it was a mechanical issue or if he just kept overdriving the corner. That didn’t seem to affect him in the race, as he picked his way through the field.
A few races ago, DiBenedetto was outside the cutline by quite a bit. Now he’s five points to the good and is only looking to go up. Mid-Ohio was his eighth top-10 of the season, which is one more than he had the entirety of the 2022 season.
That upset win at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2022 seemed to really give the Tennessee-based team the shot in the arm it needed to be a weekly frontrunner in just its third season of existence.
Paint Scheme of the Race
Straying away from the typical blue colors that normally adorns Niece Motorsports trucks, Lawless Alan sported a beige No. 45 with new sponsorship from Independent Equipment Dealers Association and Easton Sales and Rentals.
What makes this scheme even cooler is the mountainous silhouette that lined the sideskirts of the truck.
What They Said
Heim on the win:
Smith on his second-place run:
“We’ll take a top five” – Friesen’s thoughts on finishing fourth after crashing in practice and missing qualifying:
“I don’t know whose fault it is, but I’ll take the blame for it if that’s what it takes” – Rhodes on his run-ins with his teammates:
“This series is a sh*tshow” – Rodgers on contact with Self and his future in racing:
“When you race around idiots, you get raced like an idiot” – Rodgers continued on his Twitter:
“It was a great run until the very end” – ARCA race winner Tyler Ankrum on his 10th-place day:
“It’s the Truck Series, a lot of idiots out there” – Colby Howard looks forward to Pocono after crashing out early with a last-place finish
Where To Next?
Let’s get tricky.
The Craftsman Truck Series is off next week but will return the following week at Pocono Raceway as part of a doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Chandler Smith won the 2022 edition of the race. Coverage for the CNC Brakleen 150 begins at noon ET on Saturday, July 22. FS1 will broadcast the race.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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